Division of Forestry battling several large wildfires statewide
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wildfire season in Alaska is in full swing with the Alaska Division of Forestry working to battle a handful of large fires across the state.
From Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula and McGrath, the division is deploying crews and dropping water in the hopes of slowing fire growth.
One fire in particular grew significantly in size over a short period of time. The Haystack fire, caused by lightning, was reported to the division on Monday. It’s burning about 20 miles north of Fairbanks, according to a release from the division.
It was first reported 2 miles north of the Haystack Subdivision and was initially reported to be about 5 acres. By Tuesday afternoon, it was estimated to be 400 acres, and by 10 p.m. Tuesday night it had grown to 500.
The blaze is burning mostly among black spruce, with some mixed hardwoods as well and is “exhibiting what fire managers described as extreme fire behavior with 200-foot flame lengths at the head,” the division wrote in the release.
Currently, no homes or structures are threatened by the Haystack fire. It’s advancing away from the subdivision.
No evacuation orders have been issued at this time, while firefighters work with heavy equipment to make containment lines around the southern edge of the fire, which is closest to the subdivision.
More than 50 personnel are already working on the fire, and the division has ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team to take over.
There is a temporary flight restriction in place over this fire.
Tanana River fires
The division was also fighting two large fires near the Tanana River on Tuesday, near the Manley Hot Springs.
The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service will assess necessary steps to protect a cabin in the area as well as Alaska Native allotments, a release from the division states. Both wildfires were caused by lightning. The Zitziana River fire is estimated at 300 acres, and the Dry Creek fire is estimated to be at least 1,500 acres, according to the division.
The division wrote in the release that neither the Dry Creek fire or the Zitziana River fire were immediately threatening any sites.
“That could change as the hot, dry weather lingers in the area and the fires remain very active while burning through tundra and forested areas with mixture of black spruce and hardwood trees,” the release states.
Both the Manley Hot Springs and the Tanana River act as a fire break, the division wrote, but there is at least one habitable cabin, and the Alaska Native allotments, south of the river and north of the fires.
The two fires are separated by the Zitziana River. They are burning through tundra and black spruce, the division wrote.
About Mountain fire
Firefighters are also working to contain a wildfire burning along the east bank of the Kuskokwim River, also reported Monday, about 6 miles south of McGrath.
The About Mountain fire is estimated to be about 300 acres, according to a release from the division. A crew of 12 smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service has been deployed to the blaze that’s burning less than a quarter mile from the river.
The fire was initially reported as about 3 acres on Monday, then grew to 80 by the time smokejumpers got there that evening, and was approximately 300 acres by Tuesday morning.
“Smokejumpers are working to cut a saw line from the heel of the fire to the river and also working to cut a saw line along the eastern flank to tie it into a meadow,” the release states. “They are also working to get hose around the heel and east flank of the fire.”
The fire is reportedly moving slowly north, toward McGrath, but the division wrote there are numerous natural barriers that should help contain it and keep it from reaching the community. The About Mountain fire has the Kuskokwim River to the west, a riparian area to its north and an old burn scar from a previous fire to the east.
Supplies to fight the About Mountain fire are being flown to the area, according to the division. The cause of this particular fire has not yet been determined.
Loon Lake fire
Meanwhile, firefighters continue to work toward complete containment on the Loon Lake fire that’s been burning near Sterling in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday.
The division reported in a release on Tuesday that the lightning-caused fire is now 30% contained. It is now estimated to be about 100 acres in size.
The division wrote in an earlier release that the objective for Tuesday was to “connect a saw line that has been cut around part of the fire with hose lays that have been placed around the fire to encircle the entire fire perimeter with saw and hose line.”
Crews worked all throughout Tuesday to complete 90% of the saw line and to lay hose, according to the division. There was no additional fire growth noted outside of its perimeter on Tuesday.
There were 61 personnel assigned to the Loon Lake fire by Tuesday night, and warmer and drier conditions were expected to test the containment lines.
The fire, located about 10 miles from Sterling, is burning just a few miles from the location of the 170,000-acre Swan Lake fire of 2019.
The Loon Lake fire does not currently threaten any homes or structures, and the fire crews have shifted focus to mop up operations, according to the division. The nearby Moose River and area lakes are providing firefighters with water sources for laying hoses and dropping water on the fire.
A burn suspension remains in effect on the Kenai Peninsula and a temporary flight restriction remains in place over this fire.
More information on each of these wildfires can be found on akfireinfo.com.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information from the Alaska Division of Forestry.
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